The scourge of terrorism in the post 9/11 era did not only wreak havoc in terms of human and economic losses but also deprived the country of the privilege to enjoy international sporting events at home. The resulting lack of cultural exchange put Pakistan at a further disadvantage since the image projected by the international media became the world’s only source of information about Pakistan. Despite the massive sacrifices made by the Pakistan Armed Forces to root out this menace, the world is slow in recognizing our efforts and successes in improving the security situation. An effort having trouble successfully resonating as the collective memory of the international community is still colored with the past belligerent activities of non-state actors.
However, the resilient Pakistani nation has won back peace after fighting a long war against terrorism, and is now safe like any other country for international sports competitions. Peace and stability achieved through hard-won national efforts have proven false all the negative labels attached to Pakistan. New initiatives have been popping up, filling the gap in the projection of the real image of Pakistan – a country equally defined by its hospitality and love for cricket and other sports. This was amply evident during the recently held Global Zalmi Cricket Championship-2019. In its third edition, the Global Zalmi League saw the participation of 16 club teams from different countries. The experiences these international cricketers had is a testament to the success of cultural exchange initiative and how safe and welcome these players felt in Pakistan. Below are testimonials of some of the foreign players describing their experiences in the country.
Cameron, a player from South Africa stated:
“It is my first time in Pakistan and the country has truly grown on me. Islamabad is a beautiful city and I honestly feel at home with all the mountainous surroundings. Pakistanis are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met.”
Similarly, Hammad, a player from States Zalmi, who came back to Pakistan after 20 years said:
“…It’s amazing how advanced Pakistan really has become. There are all these applications like Uber and Careem. It honestly feels like there’s no difference between the cities here and back home.”
When asked whether he would come back to Pakistan for the tournament next year, he responded:
“Absolutely. I’m going to tell the other guys as well about what a wonderful experience it has been. They were a bit scared about coming here but my telling them would definitely make them feel safe.”
Cameron’s response wasn’t much different when he stated:
“Not only will I come back again but I will also ask my fellow cricketers to visit Pakistan since it is a cricket-loving nation and the level of competition that I have seen here has been super intense. The image portrayed of Pakistan should change and when I go back I will portray the real image of the country.”
Naiz-ul-Islam, the coach of Kabul Zalmi, expressed his feelings about coming to Pakistan, saying:
“Initially, it wasn’t clear whether the matches were going to be held in Pakistan or UAE. When we were told that the tournament was going to be in Pakistan, we were doubly excited because we have more supporters in Pakistan. Plus, the traditions and culture of both these countries are quite similar so we feel more at ease.”
Commenting on the experience of the players and the arrangements made by Peshawar Zalmi he further stated:
“The management has been very supportive. Hats off to their arrangements. We felt like we’re a part of a family. The way the people have treated us makes us feel like we’ve known each other for years. We will continue to visit Pakistan for the next 10 years with cricket acting as a message of peace for people of these countries.”
Samiullah, a player from Ar Riyadh Zalmi, said:
“We feel quite relaxed over here and there hasn’t been a single incident that has made us regret coming to Pakistan. In fact, it’s amazing to play the tournament here since it allows the foreign players to enjoy the ‘desi’ touch they miss while living overseas.”
The views of these players clearly indicate that along with providing people with a platform to showcase their talent, the Global Zalmi League is acting as a means to promote Pakistan’s soft image by changing people’s perceptions – especially in the cricket playing nations and the International Cricket Council – about the law and order situation.
Read 65 times